Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Dad

Yesterday my dad, Tom Hayes, aka Dr. Tom, the Silver Fox, Der Alte Mann, turned 82 yesterday. Here he is with his adorable wife of 28 years, Geneva. For those who don't know him, he had a fifty year career as a physician and is the son of one and the brother of two more. If you ask him about his illustrious career, he will probably modestly tell you that he is a product of a trade school, albeit an exclusive one (UM), and that he is largely self-taught in all other areas out of necessity. He devours books, particularly history books, and maritime books like those of Patrick O'Brien (don't get him started!!)--but also sci fi, biographies and nonfiction. He searches for obscure documentaries on Netflix and he asks a lot of questions. He designs and builds HO train engines and wears jeweler's glasses to add the tiny little lightbulbs and wheels. When I was a kid, he developed a system for developing color photograhs and won awards at the Camera Club shows in St. Joe. He golfed like a madman.

His greatest love, though, has always been music. He plays the trumpet and is in two bands: The Bend in the River Brass Band and the Shrine Band, both in Evansville, Indiana. The BRB just narrowly missed a gold medal at the huge regional competition of brass bands. If things had been different, he would have made a great music teacher or professional musician. He practices most every day. It brings him joy to make music. He went to Interlochen summers and there are pictures of him, an elementary kid with big pink cheeks sitting next to a bunch of big kids. He played second chair.

He wrote me an email yesterday:


Just checked your blog and thought you would be interested in learning that I danced in the chorus of the "Firebird" at Interlochen under the direction of Martha Graham in 1937 - the summer that she was on the faculty at the camp (which became a full-time boarding school after WW II.) I did real good - didn't fall down or anything. She was a totally impressive person.

This of course doesn't surprise me. He is still very much alive and has a lot to share.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.

another offering for Poetry Month

My friend Kathy bought me a book of poetry called NINE HORSES by Billy Collins.
Drink this poem in....small sips recommended:

Night Letter to the Reader

I get up from the tangled bed and go outside,
a bird leaving the nest,
a snail taking a holiday from its shell,

but only to stand on the lawn,
an ordinary insomniac
amid the growth systems of garden and woods.

If I were younger, I might be thinking
about something I heard at a party,
about an unusual car,

or the press of Saturday night,
but as it is, I am simply conscious,
an animal in pajamas,

sensing only the pale humidity
of the night and the slight zephyrs
that stir the tops of the trees.

The dog has followed me out
and stands a little ahead,
her nose lifted as if she were inhaling

the tall white flowers,
visible tonight in the darkened garden,
and there was something else I wanted to tell you,

something about the warm orange light
in the windows of the house,
but now I am wondering if you were even listening

and why I bother to tell you these things
that will never make a difference,
flecks of ash, tiny chips of ice.

but this is what I want to do--
tell you that up in the woods
a few night birds were calling,

the grass was cold and wet on my bare feet,
and that at one point, the moon,
looking like the top of Shakespeare's

famous forehead,
appeared, quite unexpectedly,
illuminating a band of moving clouds.   

This poem does what all good art does-it makes my heart fill as I recognize myself in it, and I say, "yes! that is exactly it!" and I realize once again that I need to tell you so many things. I feel inspired. Alive.
There are not enough hours. 

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Second Helping of Andy Warhol

Hello, friends,
Another trip to the GRAM today with my friend Mark and his friend Tina-Sunday brunch was divine and in addition to seeing the work a second time, I got to see the documentary showing in their cool theater, which was excellent.  My blurry mental image of Warhol as this stoned-out skinny guy at Studio 54, that caricature, is now gone, which I guess is a kind of definition of education--replacing misconceptions with truth.  
Years ago I went to a seminar with David Perkins, an educator who has thought and written a lot about the nature of learning, and his theory is that the reason teaching is so hard is that you have this three-fold job you have to do in order to install concepts into a person's head.  First, you have to discern the nature of the misconceptions, and we are all loaded with them. Second, you have to actually prove them wrong.  And then, finally, the misconception falls away and is replaced by something closer to reality.  No blank slates out there, in other words. 
My belief is that the arts are the vehicle.
Jack Wiler wrote about JFK's assassination this morning on his blog, at about the same time that I was looking at a roomful of Warhol's images of Jack and Jackie on that day in Dallas.  He reminded me of how we loved the Kennedy's, of Camelot. I remember that. I loved my misconceptions about that. 


Saturday, April 26, 2008

jack wiler's world

Some of you know that I have a high school reunion coming up this summer in New Jersey (class of '70, Gateway Regional,  home of the fighting Gators).  It has been great fun to reconnect with many of my old classmates through email and this blog.  Unearthing Jack Wiler has been one of my greatest pleasures. He has become an accomplished writer and has just done a one-man show in NYC based on his book, FUN BEING ME.  
his blog is tender, funny, and raw, and he will delight you, especially if you are a baby boomer and grew up in the 50's.  
check him out at  
He posted a poem today that is breathtaking. 

Friday Night at the GRAM

Thanks to a personal invitation by social butterfly Amy TenBarge, I attended the art teacher outing in GR last night to see the Warhol exhibit (and the new Grand Rapids Art Museum).
The show was magificent and I was struck by the breadth and depth of his work. My mind had reduced Andy to a couple of thumbnails: David Bowie's dead-on rendition of him in BASQUIAT, a poster of multiple images of Marilyn Monroe (I showed this to my second graders once and they thought she was Madonna), and maybe those endangered animals. But, just like anything else, his work is far richer than that, and I recommend that you go. I was fortunate to have Brent there with me, who is very knowledgeable about printmaking, and who was able to greatly enhance my experience through explaining processes and nuances of the work.  
Apparently, Andy began his professional life in commercial art, mostly for women's fashions.
The shoe print you're looking at is embedded with "diamond dust", tiny particles of glass (Paul Simon anyone? are the diamonds on the soles?)
The Martha Graham picture was my favorite.  You know, the debate will never end about Warhol-real artist or opportunist? But you know, he took this famous shot of her and managed to give it back to us in a whole new way.  It becomes more through his interpretation of it.
I viewed these images with Susan L, who is a dancer and a beauty and a kindred soul. I saw her in it.
Tapas at Sanchez and then Jan drove me home through the night city and then through an unforgettable rainstorm. We talked about being older, wiser and happier. It was glorious.

If you can't go to the warhol show, do yourself a favor and look at some art today.

martha graham by andy warhol

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Poetry Month

One of the ways we members of the school community mark the time is to observe some of the myriad dedications that we find on calendars for different months. This month is Poetry Month, and my fellow teachers at West Ottawa have been sharing their favorite poems via email with the rest of the faculty. What a joy to find several of them waiting in my inbox to be read during a quick break or printed up and saved for later.
Like the teachers in our district, the poems run the gamut, from Dave Matthews lyrics to to an ee cummings poem recited sensually on a you tube clip. There are Emily Dickenson and Robert Creely, Rumi and Whitman. Each of these poems is presented to us as a gift and as a little peek into the person who sent it.
Carolyn, dear friend, aforementioned Resourceress at our school, sent the following poem today, which is sure to pierce the heart of every parent out there.
Passed along to my friends here in cyberspace for your enjoyment:


Griffin calls to come and kiss him goodnight
I yell ok. Finish something I'm doing,
then something else, walk slowly round
the corner to my son's room.
He is standing arms outstretched
waiting for a bearhug. Grinning.

Why do I give my emotion an animal's name,
give it that dark squeeze of death?
This is the hug which collects
all his small bones and his warm neck against me.
The thin tough body under the pyjamas
locks me like a magnet of blood.

How long was he standing there
like that, before I came?

-Michael Ondaatje
exerpted from "The Cinnamon Peeler"
Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Happy Poetry Month.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"The Sun" magazine

The magazine "The Sun" is a really excellent journal of writings that range from interviews to poems to essays to short stories. I am on my third issue and happily am devouring it, as I have the previous two.  There are no ads in this little periodical, which is refreshing, and  there are wonderful black and white photographs, the kind that harken back to the 50's and Life Magazine, which made my day each month when it arrived. The Sun has been around for a long time and has acheived enough success that there are several bound volumes available for sale that are collections of its "best."  In addition to the Letters to the Editor, there is another section in which the readers are invited to address topics (predetermined by the editors) for inclusion in upcoming issues.  In the March issue, the topic was "The Last Time", and the essays ranged from memories of lost loved ones to "the last time I took drugs." Surveying them, I was struck by the nostalgic tone of most of them, and of the very words, " the last time." 
The last page of the Sun is devoted to quotes and literary excerpts, also contributed by readers, and is entitled "Sunbeams."  As many will attest, any publication worth its salt has a good back page; remember the last photo in Life (what was it called? Last Laugh?) , and "Postscripts" in The Saturday Evening Post?
Anyway, here I found this quote, which seems to dovetail nicely with the"last time" idea:

"We get to think of life as an inexhaustible well.  Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really.  How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it?  Perhaps four or five times more.  Perhaps not even that.  How many more times will you watch the full moon rise?  Perhaps twenty.  And yet it all seems limitless.  --Paul Bowles

If there is anything that is hallmark of the human being is that we seem to have absolute faith in our ability to keep returning to that which pleases us, whether it be a favorite movie, a shopping trip, a dog-eared beloved book, friends who we have let slip away who we keep forgetting to call. We even complain about the repetitiveness of it all, don't we? 
And yet, aren't our days filled, every one of them, with fresh and new moments that will never come again in exactly that same way?  Does the secret of a greatly satisfying and interesting life lie in our ability to see the absolute originality of every experience, no matter how repetitive they may sometimes seem?

If you are interested in The Sun, they have a great website-
Check it out, but then, go to Reader's World and buy the rag itself. There is no substitute for the way it feels and the sound of the pages turning as you read. and you can tuck it under your arm and find a tree to sit under and read it. Spring is here, and who knows how many more times you might have the chance?


Monday, April 21, 2008

The Vanespa

Good morning,
The birds are making a joyful racket and isn't spring just the best?
This is Vanessa on her new scooter. Just when I think she can't get any cuter, she goes and surprises me!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

dinner at panera

Hi, All-
Bobbi, Kathy and I met for soup after work-as is probably written all over our faces, we had a lovely time together, like we always do. I treasure these women and we all agree that men may come and men may go, but the love we have for each other is the real deal. 
Last November I bought a card that expressed sentiment about friends:
"We all let people into our lives, but you will find that really good friends let you into your own."
If we have great friends who love us and are honest with us, this happens, and when it does it is a gift beyond measure.
An eye story for you:
I went to Lowe's the other day to get some fertilizer for the lawn, having spent the afternoon raking and finding little green heads peeking out of the ground. My eyes were itchy, are every other MIchigander's this time of year, and I was rubbing both of them hard as I drove.  What I didn't realize is that I somehow managed to flip my magic eye upSIDE DOWN.....
I didn't realize why the cashier was looking at me a little oddly until I checked the mirror when I got back to the car! So, I have a peculiar request for you all--please, give me a headsup if my eye is askew, ok? :)

Carolyn's Announcement

Now it is official: our dear Carolyn, the Waukazoo librarian and technology specialist, the Resourceress, the creator of MIKIDS, my wonderful friend of 17 years, is moving to the Indianapolis area where her hub Stefan has started a new job. It is a great job, from all accounts, and he is up to the challenge and raring to go, having had a few months of tweener retirement that he didn't really ask for. Congratulations to both of you as you walk toward something new.
They have bought a breathtaking house, the kind of house people drive by on Sunday afternoons and say, " Wow, look at that one!"  Plenty of room for the pinball machine and the baby grand.
A great kitchen in which Carolyn can whip up her delectable deserts.  Three guest rooms-one each for Bobbi, Kathy and I. We need to pick out bedspreads and paint.  I want the red Chinese bedspread in my room!
All who know Carolyn, who I affectionately call "Eric" from an old MOnty Python joke (the one about the dead budgie and the fish license), know that she is a very witty person. She just delights me with her sense of humor. She is also strong, direct, insightful, headstrong, and a little bossy. These qualities are precisely what has made her so successful in building the libraries she oversees at Waukazoo and Sheldon Woods. We don't of course have any idea how much we will miss her. Her shoes are far too big to fill (although, with a little heel and a short skirt, who would know?)
One of my favorite memories of Carolyn: we went to a conference in Arizona years ago, when teachers still got to go to things like that, and when we got to the hotel, all of our luggage and stuff was in a pile. My handmade Mexican shawl was among the stuff, and Carolyn looked at it and sniffed, " who the hell brought that thing?" A little offended, I sniffed, "that is MINe, Carolyn!" and we laughed (I laughed just a little.) A little later, I saw a Louis Vutton bag and made a comment about the ostentatiousness of those hideous designer bags with initials all over them which translate into dollar signs to the observer...and of course, it was her bag.  
How we have gotten so close over the years is just a testament to how much we love the differences between us.
I love you, Eric.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Goodbye, Karla's Place

Dear People,
Today is the final day that one of my favorite Holland shops, Karla's Place, will be open for business.  If  you haven't been there and can make it downtown today, it is on College, just up from Roxie's Vintage.  Go there to see Karla and wish her well. It will be worth the trip.
Karla's shop is painted warm colors, reds and pinks that reflect the warmth of the owner.  Her shop is filled with things that were made by other people and her reverance for artistry and originality are evident everywhere. As a proprietor, Karla is an advocate for artists: everyone from high-profile crafters and artisians to a young girl of about 12 who was selling her earrings to buy a puppy.  Now, Karla is moving toward listening to her own artist's voice and making time to make things. Of course, this is letting go, jumping off the cliff, moving forward fully aware of the impermanence of all there is, and the futility of trying to get ground under our feet, no matter how we try. 
I met Karla because my dear friend Mark Amenta told me about her, so I visited her shop.  I bought a Tibetian singing bowl ringer for my phone there. Now, whenever my phone rings, I hear that beautiful sound, gently bringing me to awareness, a subtle nudge rather than a shrill demand for attention. That is how Karla is, too.
She emailed me and told me she was saving my favorite necklace for me, and she practically gave it away.  As always, there is a story behind it, and the women who made it are pictured along with the necklace itself.  As you can see, it is made of jade, boxwood, silver and pearls.
I went to Karla's with my dear Julie and it was the place she found the perfect gift for her sister Coralee--a beautiful cloth of green and brown.
I bought gifts for friends and children there. 
Whenever I go there, she asks about Annie and her art career. She always remembers everything.  After my surgery, I got a beautiful card from her.
Now, she is looking at taking her art and her wares out into the world, to other places, sharing her gift for putting people and beautiful things together. I wish her well and am happy that I will still be on her email list.
Things really don't have beginnings and ends, it seems. It is more a coming together, a separating, and then a coming together again, the familiar with the new, as life unfolds.
The thread that connects it all is love.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bella's Installation

Hello from Hollywood Street,
This is what Bella created this morning, using nothing more than ordinary paper towels. I believe she is addressing the problem of consumer waste--or perhaps it is simpler than that-the beauty of the random distribution of form. She has declined to comment further on it--being a Buddha dog, she wants us to draw our own conclusions....
It is good to be home. I rarely thought about my prosthesis on this trip-except to get some advice from Geneva on eyewashes and ways to clean it. 
In touch with Mike to make some minor changes next week to allow me to close my eye better.
Bella is being spayed this morning..keep her in your prayers.
The twisted sisters are here tonight for a Spring Break sleepover!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hello, All!

First, let me give you the link to my Picasa album of my visit with Dad and Geneva... it is:

This was a great trip, and my first in several years to Evansville. Going there is like going ahead about a month, weatherwise...the pear trees are all in bloom, along with many other blossoms and blooms, and the grass was the brightest green. I smelled fresh-cut grass on my morning walks with Bella and felt the warm sun. We sat outside in the backyard, and felt the balmy breeze. 
Geneva made wonderful food and spoiled Dad and I as usual, and we all spoiled Bella.
The trip home was beautiful- I had forgotten the subtle colors and order of the farmland on US 31 and the eccentric signs and buildings that keep things interesting.
Glad to be home. 

Back from Evansville!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring break

good morning, friends,
Yesterday was a beautiful day, as my Holland buddies can attest, and Bella and I took to the beach..what a glorious afternoon.
Today I head to Evansville Indiana to visit my dad, Dr. Tom.  One of the many gifts of my illness has been my reconciliation with him, which I have probably written to you about already, but to be able to talk to him just about every day and have the comfort and joy of a parent is something I didn't even know was missing in my life. I have come to believe that we must reach out with abandon in spite of our fear. Thanks to my friend Barb for making me call him that day when I told her about my eye. She was right. 
If someone is on your mind, folks, pick up that phone.
The worst that can happen is that your life will get a little bigger, in one way or another.
Happy Spring Break!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Happy Birthday, Annie

Annie has been drawing ever since she could. As you can see, not much has changed in the past 20 years or so.
Happy Birthday, my darling girl! Thank you for your love and devotion, your sense of humor, your spirit, your creativity. What an incredible gift you are to me and everyone who knows you!
Wish Anna a happy birthday by using this email"!


The first time I saw Lynn was at an AA meeting about 7 years ago. A very diminuative person to begin with, she looked even more so due to her severe health problems-she had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and its symptoms were rampant.  She wore a pink bathrobe and slippers because her distended abdomen and swollen feet would not accomodate street clothes. She used a walker because her swollen feet were virtually numb and her balance was off. She had lost some of her hair and what remained stood up like that of a baby bird. Her  skin was yellow. 
She moved like an elderly person, tentative, tired. Lynn was 44.
The story was: Lynn wanted to die sober. She had just endured another episode of public drunkenness , the consequences of which drew her 25 year old daughter into a familiar whirlwind of police, ambulance, emergency room and detox. Lynn didn't want to put Kimmie through it any more, so she went through detox by herself, in her house, with the door locked and the phone off the hook, and then came to a meeting. I don't even know how she got there.
As the months went by, Lynn was staying sober, but also, amazingly, she seemed to be getting better.  She even joked about it as summer came and she was finally able to fit into her shoes, and her hair grew back, and her skin got pinker and a mischevious smile began to appear on her face.   Her worda at meetings inspired all of us and we began calling her our Miracle.  She struggled with the same things all people do who live in functional poverty-the dismissive attitude of doctors, fighting with Medicare to get medication, repeated attempst to get disability, feeling invisible in this system of ours.  But in the middle of all of this-light, gratitude, humor, love, friendship.  She got a job, a car that worked. She repainted her dining room bright red.  She knitted ponchos and scarves. She wore wild earrings. She dated a couple of guys, nothing serious, but part of coming back from the dead and feeling like a woman again, a young and vibrant one at that.
Lynn met a guy at a meeting named Brad--an impossibly tall, thin and lanky guy with a cowboy hat-a country singer with shoulders and heart big enough to hold her.  Within a few months, Lynn announced that she was moving to Montana with him. She gave away or sold everything she owned and they bought a little RV. They left the day after Thanksgiving. We cautioned her about what seemed like a reckless decision--did she really know this guy? Did she want to give up her job, her home, her security, for this great unknown of Brad and MOntana? Yes, she said. Yes, I do, and I am doing it.  There was a calmness about her that put an end to our advice-giving.
Lynn died happy among the mountains of Montana with her true love at her side. The last picture I saw of her shows her standing on a ridge with a white jacket and a cowboy hat, that mischevious smile peeking out at us.  The cancer they had discovered was everywhere. She called me and left a message and three days later she was gone.
Lynn knew what was important, and she had the wisdom and the courage to remain true to it.
She died sober and happy and unencumbered by all of the stuff that we tend to cling to with our very lives. 
Next month would have been her 7th sobriety birthday. I will think of Lynn as I see the flowers come up that she helped me plant in my garden.